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Lake Superior - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip

Report Type: Extended Trip Report
Trip Dates: Aug. 2003
Nearest City: Thunder Bay, ON
Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult
Submitted by: John Craun

Description:

Saturday 8/2 - I arrived at Silver Islet, a little town at the Southern end of Sibley Peninsula, in the afternoon and was on the water by 5:00 PM. The weather was beautiful - clear, warm, and calm. I could see Isle Royale on the horizon 18 miles to the South. I have wanted to do a crossing by kayak to Isle Royale, and was severely tempted to head straight for it. However, sanity and reason prevailed and I headed East like I'd planned. Porphyry Island was my goal for the day and it was 10 miles away. Getting there involved a 5 mile crossing of Black Bay. Before starting the crossing I could see the light house on the end of Porphyry Island and headed straight for it. I arrived at Porphyry shortly before sunset, and the White lighthouse perched on the basalt rock was picture perfect.

Less than a mile NE of the lighthouse there was a cove with a black sand beach where I landed and spent the night.

8/3 At 6:00 AM I got up to calm conditions, pea soup fog and a light misty rain. The weather forecast was good, so I was on the water by 7:30 for another crossing of about 5 miles. This one was to Magnet Island! I set my GPS on the deck right in front of my deck compass, because Magnet Island is not a misnomer! I couldn't see more than 1/4 mile in the fog, and at one point the compass read about 30 degrees different than the GPS. With calm conditions and the correct GPS heading Magnet Island later appeared out of the fog as planned. This area of Lake Superior is loaded with hundreds of islands of all sizes. The islands and shoals make the area dangerous for boaters but ideal for kayakers! The winds were light and variable so I spent the day paddling around wilderness islands, climbing up on granite ledges and even taking a cold dip in the Lake. On the North end of Swede Island I found a sand spit in the evening where I spent the night. For the past three years I have used a hennessee hammock for sleeping, which is great for not leaving a trace.

8/4 I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and was on the water by 7:00 AM heading toward Loon harbor - Loon harbor is formed by three islands and naturally protected from stormy weather from any direction. After leaving Loon harbor I headed for Shesheeb Point. By the time I got to Shesheeb Point the wind had picked up from the SE and there were a lot of white caps and building waves. Heading NE from Shesheeb was a 4 mile crossing plus another 6 miles where I would be exposed to weather from the South! The Upper Peninsula of Michigan was 200 miles away cross the open lake. Again my sanity prevailed and I headed SW in the lee of all kinds and sizes of islands, and had a great day exploring the area.

8/5 Another beautiful morning and on the water by 6:00 AM. I paddled along the shore of the Black Bay peninsula, crossed to Edward Island, and made the 5 Mile crossing back to the Sibley Peninsula and Silver Islet. After taking a short break in Silver Islet I headed SW along Sleeping Giant toward Thunder Cape. By the time I got to Tee harbor, 6 miles, the wind had picked up from the SW and the waves were 3 to 4 feet. Tee harbor is well protected and has a beautiful sand beach, so I landed a cooked up a meal. Sleeping Giant is formed by granite cliffs that rise over 1000 feet out of lake Superior - it looks like it belongs in British Columbia. After eating the waves were even bigger, so I put on my hiking shoes. There was a well marked hiking trail leading up onto Sleeping Giant from Tee harbor that I enjoyed exploring. Hiking felt good after all the paddling hours.

8/6 I was on the water at sunrise heading toward the SW point of Thunder Cape 3 miles away. If the conditions were good I planned to make the 7 mile crossing to Pie Island across Thunder Bay. Again I faced winds from the SW that were building, so I turned and headed back to Silver Islet. I loaded up and drove back through Thunder Bay to Little Trout Bay located over 20 miles SW of Pie Island. There is a string of islands stretching from Little Trout Bay over toward Pie Island. From Little Trout Bay I paddled 5 miles over to a protected beach on the West end of Victoria Island and camped there.

8/7 Again I got up early determined to make it to Pie Island from the opposite direction if the weather let me! I paddled NE along Victoria, Spar and Thompson Islands.

Then I successfully made the 4 mile crossing from Thompson to Dawson Bay on Pie Island. Dawson Bay is fairly shelterd, has a nice sand beach, and the view of the cliffs of Pie Island rising over 800 feet is spectacular! Dawson Bay was my favorite camping spot of the trip.

8/8 At sunrise I was up and preparing for the 20 mile paddle to circumnavigate Pie Island. Pie Island is a wilderness island. The breath taking part of Pie Island is the 6 mile long rock cliff that faces SE. Paddling along the base of this cliff for six miles with the open expanse of lake Superior lapping against it was intimidating! By noon I was around the island and back in Dawson Bay. I relaxed for a while and cooked up a good meal. Before I was ready to paddle again the wind had picked up from the SW again, and the frothy waves were over four feet. I hiked around the bay, relaxed and did some reading until 7:00 PM. Then I loaded up and headed into 3 foot waves crossing back to Thompson Island. I spent the night in a natural and well protected harbor on the NE end of Thompson Island. The weather report for the next few days motivated me to do the crossing! Thunderstorms were predicted to be moving into the area in about 24 hours.

8/9 I was on the water before sunrise and watched the sun magicly appear out of the lake. The morning was calm and beautiful, but I believed the weather report and paddled steadily onward. By 10:30 AM I was back in Little Trout Bay, the Wind was kicking up and I was a satisfied kayaker.

Outfitting:

I used my 18 foot stripbuilt kayak, a panache, made from plans I purchased from Laughing Loon.

Resources:

The "Guide to Sea Kayaking on Lakes Superior and Michigan by Newman, Ohmann and Dimond gives good directions. It also provides great information on launching areas, fees, permits, cammping spots etc.


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